Spencer: When you read enough comics, you start to see certain repeated themes and styles emerge among various writers. Brian Michael Bendis is known for dialogue-heavy, somewhat decompressed comics. Kieron Gillen makes no attempt to hide his musical influences and knack for clever dialogue. Geoff Johns loves to rehabilitate long-forgotten or mishandled characters and concepts (and is also a bit infamous for cutting off his characters’ arms). Jonathan Hickman, meanwhile, is probably best known for his cerebral, somewhat detached style of writing that can spend years setting things up before finally letting all the dominos fall into place. With this week’s Avengers 39 we’re getting closer and closer to the end of Hickman’s Avengers epic, but the most interesting part of the issue is the commentary Hickman seems to be making on his own writing style. Continue reading
Today, Greg and Spencer are discussing Secret Avengers 10, originally released November 26th, 2014. Greg: I studied a lot of television history in college, and there are many similarities between that medium and comic books. Particularly, there’s a notable trend in both mediums from self-contained, episodic units that could be watched and appreciated with no greater context, to highly serialized, novelistic longform works that have identifiable cause-and-effect and require consumers to know their stuff. TV content creators seem to understand this is a primary method of creating and consuming TV now, with binge-watching services like Netflix and Hulu taking storm, and even half-hour sitcoms serializing like crazy (I would not recommend jumping into New Girl halfway through, for example). Comic book creators, however, still seem to try and cater to both extremes of readership; in the case of Secret Avengers 10, they manage to succeed, but just barely. Continue reading
Suzanne: Have you ever looked at your job description six months into a new job and chuckled to yourself? Rarely do expectations and generally-worded guidelines from corporate align themselves with real-life experiences. How about that summer internship when you felt more like a barista than a business student? Natasha Romanova feels your pain in Black Widow 12, as jobs constantly pull her away from her preferred role as a spy. Continue reading
You can’t tell the players without a program!
Spencer: I actually bought a program at a ballgame once, and while it made a nice souvenir, I can’t say it helped me follow the game any better — if anything, it was a bit of a distraction. I didn’t need to be able to tell the players to follow the action on the field, but the same isn’t true for Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers epic; thankfully, Avengers 38 provides us with a pretty snazzy program of its own, free of charge!
While only the characters in color actually appear in this issue, almost all of them play some sort of role in its story, making me increasingly grateful for this handy run-down. Actually, in its own way all of Avengers 38 is a program; the issue sets up the players in the upcoming conflict between the various Avengers teams as well as their motivations, allegiances, and weapons, and I have a feeling we’re going to be referencing this issue for quite a while to come. It’s place-setting, but place-setting is rarely this entertaining. Continue reading
Drew: Of all the ways a writer can use to emphasize their storytelling beats, shuffling the chronology of the events always demands my attention. I almost called it “distracting” but I think I mean “demands my attention” — I absolutely appreciate that it’s a handy tool in the savvy writer’s toolkit, but we’re so used to perceiving events one after the other that flipping them around feels noticeably alien. Again, I don’t want to imply that it’s inherently bad — there are lots of compelling reasons to tell a story out-of-order — but that it draws attention to itself in ways that aren’t always accounted for. Fortunately, Matt Fraction has routinely proven himself capable of handling (and justifying) these types of stories, making Hawkeye 20 an excellent example of nonlinear narrative done right. Continue reading
Today, Spencer and Courtney are discussing Hawkeye 19, originally released July 30th, 2014.
Spencer: My best friend is an artist, and he constantly complains that I read my comics too fast, that I don’t pay enough attention to the art. I’ll admit it, he has a point; I’m so eager to read the story that I often devour my comics, and miss things in the art I don’t catch until my second or third time through a book. There was no way I could do that with Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye 19, though. This issue demands that you slow down and pay attention to every detail. It’s a challenging read in many ways, but it’s a challenge that’s absolutely worth attempting. Continue reading
Spencer: This new volume of Daredevil has largely revolved around Matt Murdock’s move to San Francisco and how his unfamiliarity with that city has affected his skills as a crime fighter. Mark Waid and Javier Rodriguez’s Daredevil 6 finds Matt returning to New York City (seemingly only so he can get mixed-up with Original Sin), but despite being back in his old stomping grounds, things don’t get any easier for Matt. Waid spends this entire issue showing us just how unprepared Matt is now that all his secrets are out in the open; the way Waid piles tragedy atop tragedy atop tragedy is horrifically beautiful. Continue reading
Spencer: I’m a big proponent of comics being goofy, and due to my embracing the sillier aspects of comic books, I’ve been a big fan of Secret Avengers thus far. Still, it’s way too easy for “silly” to cross some sort of line, becoming corny or cringe-worthy or sometimes just tonally jarring. I liked last month’s issue a lot more than Drew and Shelby did, but I still have to agree with them that some of the issue’s more bizarre jokes felt out of place amongst the drama of the story itself. That’s not a problem in issue four, though. Gone are the random (if funny) throwaway gags; instead, Ales Kot and Michael Walsh embrace the inherent ridiculousness of their cast and the world they live in without ever betraying the high stakes of the mission itself. Continue reading
Drew: There was a point in my life, from my late teens through my early twenties, where I firmly ascribed to the notion that making an impression, good or bad, was better than going unnoticed. It made me a very outgoing person, but it also made me pretty obnoxious. I may have gotten a bit more cynical over the years (I’ve definitely gotten quieter), but I’m now fairly certain that outgoing and obnoxiousness may be more than just directly correlated; frankly, I think they’re the same trait. “Outgoing” is the term we use when we find that kind of extroverted behavior charming, but it doesn’t take much to see those same behaviors as utterly grating. It forces us to walk a tricky line — we don’t want to be faceless cookie-cutter bores, but we also don’t want to be so fixated on the beat of our own drums that we turn people off (at least, not everyone).
Art walks a similar line, struggling to distinguish itself from the pack without alienating its audience. All art exists on a continuum of underdone to overdone but the vanguard has always been on that overdone edge, as artists push the envelope of taste ever further from the known. I don’t want to suggest that Secret Avengers 3 is quite on the bleeding edge of comic book trends, but it certainly toes the line of obnoxiousness. I know that sounds like a harsh criticism, but I really don’t mean that in a bad way. I may not mean it in a good way, either, but it’s certainly not all bad.
-S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill
Patrick: For all the crap people give the superhero genre for being “formulaic” or “predictable,” the medium of comics is anything but. I really liked Captain America: The Winter Soldier — and that flick does take a lot of big crazy chances — but one of the moments I was disappointed by was the split second we thought we were going to see Nick Fury’s car fly through the streets of D.C. Hot damn, I wanted to see that car fly. “Flying car” is one of those things you sorta just have to shrug at and say “comics are weird, man.” Or, more precisely, “there are no rules.” Ales Kot’s Secret Avengers embraces this philosophy, combining a cast of button-down Special Agents with a band of superhero (…and supervillain) misfits into one cacophonous volume. It’s a buffet of surprises, each one gleefully undermining all the others. Continue reading